Going to the DMV in the States often takes a certain saint like level of patience and understanding to deal with the lines, paperwork, and sometimes crabby workers. We at least however understand the language.
Navigating the Japanese equivalent of the DMV requires patience and understanding of a different type. What do you do when you don’t understand the language (written or verbal) AND don’t know the process or procedure?
Breathe, Relax, Watch, Wait, Follow.
The last time we registered a newly purchased car in Japan, we were spoiled. For a small fee, the Japanese insurance office at Yokota Air Base does the paperwork shuffle at the Land Transportation Office for you.
Not the case here at Camp Zama, which means we must figure it out on our own. There is something about having to go to an official Japanese city administration building that was intimidating to me. We did have directions at least, and the help of google maps.
We knew we had to start at building D as told to us by the vehicle registration office at Camp Zama and we had a general idea of the overall flow. The Japanese workers spoke enough English and everything seemed very efficient as we went from building D to A.
The clerk at A flipped furiously back and forth between all the pages, then brought out a stamp, stamping four times on one sheet, two more on another. Stamp it, stamp the hell out of it, as long as this means we pass.
He then sends us to building B. Uh oh. The lady at Camp Zama told us we wouldn’t need to go to building B for the car inspection. Now the process we thought we knew had changed. It’s 1125 and they close for lunch at 1145. Will we make it through in time?
We drive around to building B and wait. We aren’t sure if we just drive in to the garage. No one is acknowledging us or waiving us forward. What to do? We finally see a sign with directions, but they aren’t helpful at all.
We’re starting to get anxious.
This is precisely the moment we need to Breathe, Relax, Watch, Wait, Follow.
Conscious breathing helps calm the nervous system down allowing the body to relax. This helps us to be patient and perceptive and watch what is going on around us.
What are the other drivers doing? What are the inspectors doing with their cars? What is happening with the car directly in front of us?
We’re waiting. This is the perfect opportunity to observe and follow the behavior of those in front of us. Perhaps this is a skill that diminishes as we age, but kids do this all the time.
However, as adults, our daily routines don’t change as often. We rarely have to go through or learn anything new. Thus when faced with having to navigate the unfamiliar, we experience increased anxiety.
Training the mind to welcome the unknown would require daily exposure to new activities and surroundings. This generally isn’t practical or ideal as humans desire routines.
But, when you do have to go through the unfamiliar, remember that you have the power of your breath and observation. Breathe, Relax, Watch, Wait, Follow.
We made it through building B, only to go back to A, then to C, back to D, and then finally got license plates to put on the car. Whew. We made it in time. That was just one piece to the car registration puzzle; there were steps before and after the Japanese DMV, but you get the picture.